As an American, I always look forward to the Thanksgiving holiday in November. While I enjoy the food, celebration and spending time with loved ones (of course), what I really love most is that Thanksgiving, hence the name, is a holiday purely dedicated to giving thanks. It is a time to reflect on all that is good in our lives and how lucky we truly are. Even those of us who haven’t had the best of years are able to express gratitude for something in our lives.
So how can we take this annual tradition and make giving thanks a habit in our daily lives?
Pay attention to all the “small” things that go your way.
When you do, you’ll see just how many blessings you really have. We are so immersed in our hectic lives doing more and more at a faster pace, that we have created an expectation for life to run smoothly. Think about the types of things we often complain about, being tired, traffic, bad weather, slow internet, and whatever other typical complaint of our day and age. How often do we see the positive side of the situation?
I’ll sheepishly admit that I have spent a lot of time lately complaining about train delays. Last week, I was on the Victoria line platform in London waiting for the tube, caught in a crowd of people. There was a lot of grumbling because issues on one tube line caused delays on other trains and therefore more congestion on the platform resulting in pushing, shoving, and complaining.
As negative thoughts spiralled in my head, suddenly I had a realisation. Here I was, complaining about a train that was taking an extra 1 maybe 2 minutes to arrive, when I should have been appreciating the ability for a train to take me across 6 miles of London in 20 minutes! That is quite a feat if you think about it.
By practicing gratitude for the small things, you will form the habit of becoming more appreciative.
It takes a shift in perspective to practice being thankful. Think of those black and white images that, depending on the viewer, can be seen as 2 (or more) different images. Why not change your lens to see the brighter picture? Next time you are stressed or annoyed by something not quite going your way, try shifting your perspective. Stuck in traffic? Enjoy the time listening to the radio. Can’t get a signal on your iPhone? Use the time to engage in a face to face conversation.
Being thankful takes practice but it can be done. Gratitude is like a muscle that needs to be exercised frequently to see the benefits. Over time you will start to naturally be filled with thanks for all the wonderful things you have in your life.